Revelation 20:6 ‘Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years’
The key word in this verse is resurrection, which in this case refers to ‘rising to life’ immediately prior to the seven-year tribulation period and other end times events. As there is reference to the ‘first resurrection’, we can assume that there will be a second resurrection as well. The first resurrection is for believers and occurs during the rapture or catching away of God’s people. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 we have a description of the first resurrection, and are told that the ‘dead in Christ shall rise first.’ All Christians who have died before the rapture will be raised from their graves or resting places, to be followed by the living believers, all of whom will meet the Lord in the air and shall ever be with Lord. One of the greatest benefits of being part of the first resurrection is that the ‘second death’ has no power over Christians. Another benefit is avoidance of the tribulation period, when there will be unimaginable suffering, persecution and death for those remaining on earth at that time. The second death is the final judgement and condemnation of those who have refused to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation, and who appear before God after the second resurrection. And the second death is the final separation from God with no hope of ever attaining eternal life in heaven.
After the first resurrection, Christians are blessed by becoming priests of God and will reign with him during the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. And this is just a foretaste of spending eternity in the presence of God. Although our imagination is incapable of understanding the true beauty and glory of heaven, we are assured it is a place without sin, sickness, death or any of the trials and tribulations of our earthly existence. Which are just a few of the reasons why it is essential that we are ready to be part of the first resurrection. As today’s verse says, only those who have been made ‘blessed and holy’ by the blood of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit will be prepared to take part in the first resurrection.
Hebrews 4:15 ‘For we do not have a High Priest Who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.’
In the Old Testament the role of the priest was that of an intermediary between man and God. One of the priest’s main duties was to present to God the sacrifices that the people brought to the temple. It was also their responsibility to facilitate and conduct worship services on the Sabbath and other special days. But there was one priest who had a greater role; it was the high priest who alone could enter the holiest place in the temple on the Day of Atonement and present sacrifices on behalf of his people. This role was a foreshadowing of the one that Jesus would fulfil on our behalf. Jesus not only became our High Priest, but He also became the sacrifice for our sin. Instead of our sin being covered, as by the sacrifice of animals, Christ obtained ‘eternal redemption for us through the shedding of His blood on Calvary. (Hebrews 9:12). And Hebrews 7:25 tells us that our High Priest is ‘able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them.’
Jesus, as God incarnate, not only became the sacrifice for our sin, but because of His humanity, faced the kinds of struggles and temptations that we have to deal with, yet overcame them without sinning. Because of this experience, He is able to sympathize and identify with our trials, and is available to intercede and intervene on our behalf. Although we face temptations on a daily basis, and often fail when tested, we have a High Priest Who is an advocate on our behalf with the Father. (1 John 1:2). And, because of our Great High Priest we can confidently enter the holiest place, and place our petitions before the throne of grace, where God’s Word assures us we will ‘obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16)
Do you think the office of High Priest is understood today?
Do you think of Jesus as your High Priest?
What does it mean to you to have such a High Priest?
Photo..Seal Cove Beach with remnants of the old railroad embankment
John 3:3 ‘Jesus answered and said unto him (Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
There is a common saying: ‘either a person is born once and dies twice, or he/she is born twice and dies once.’ Sadly, the majority of people do not take this adage seriously, or fail to follow up on its advice. In today’s verse, Jesus makes it crystal clear that a person must be born the second time if s/he is to ever see the kingdom of God. And many, like Nicodemus, will no doubt ask just what it means to be ‘born again.’ In verse 8 of John 3, Jesus used the analogy of the wind, which we cannot see, or tell where it comes from or where it goes. Being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who miraculously performs the work of regeneration by which a person becomes a new creation. It is not a work which can be explained terms of human understanding, but is a mysterious transformation which results in a person being spiritually raised from the dead. As Ephesians 2:3 says ‘you have He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins.’
The key to being born again is faith to believe and receive, which God gives to every person who is willing to seek the way of salvation. As we are told in 2 Peter 3:9, ‘the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ God does not want any person to be lost and suffer eternal separation from Him. But in spite of the misconception that there are many ways to heaven, the only way is through Jesus Christ Who Himself proclaimed ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.’ Today could be the day of your re-birth – God patiently awaits your decision.
Have you received God’s gift of salvation? (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Why would you choose not to accept His gift?
Do you believe there is another way to eternal life?
Galatians 5:25 ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’
Throughout the Bible Christians are instructed to walk in the Spirit if they expect to be able to overcome temptation and be profitable servants of the Lord. This verse implies that living in the Spirit is a precondition to walking in the Spirit. When Christians are born again into the family of God, they are spiritual babes who need time and nurturing to become mature in the faith. Only those who grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord will be found to be living in the Spirit, and thereby equipped to walk in the Spirit. What are the signs of a Christian who is walking in the Spirit? Briefly, walking in the Spirit is living out all aspects of the Christian life in a manner that is pleasing to God. As a common saying put it we are to ‘walk the walk as well as we talk the talk.’ If we are walking in the Spirit we will be exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit which are listed in Galatians 5:22,23 as ‘love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and temperance.’
Walking in the Spirit also infers that we are making progress, or moving towards a goal. Our primary goal should be that our actions and behaviour become more Christlike as time goes by. As with any journey we have to set our course, and persevere in doing the things that will enable us to reach our destination. To become more like our Saviour we have to exercise our faith, both in overcoming temptation, and by practising obedience to the will of God in fulfilling His plan and purpose for our lives. Just as physical walking is a means of improving our health, walking in the Spirit will have beneficial effects in maintaining a close relationship with God, as well as enabling the development of a fruitful and profitable ministry.
What are the key activities involved in ‘walking in the Spirit?’
Why is such a spiritual walk necessary?
What are the consequences of not ‘walking in the Spirit?’
1 Corinthians 6:20 ‘For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’
Most people at one time or another have asked the questions ‘why am I here and what is the purpose of life?’ In today’s materialistic society, the majority of people measure the meaning and success of life by evaluation of a person’s popularity, possessions or power. While any of these achievements may not be wrong in and of themselves, neither has the capacity to provide the fulfilment or contentment that one is ultimately seeking. However, a Christians perspective on life and its meaning is, or should be, radically different. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Saviour, s/he becomes a new creation, with new goals and ambitions in life. Jesus said in John 10:10 ‘I am come to give abundant life.’ And Paul in Acts 17:28 explains that ‘in Him (Jesus) we live, and move, and have our being.’ The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts the question and answer this way. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
While different religions and philosophies have various interpretations as to the meaning of life, today’s summarizes it succinctly – Christians are to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits. We have been purchased by the price which Jesus paid on Calvary, and we now belong to God. As His possession, we are to live in accordance with the perspective, plans and purposes He has ordained for each individual life. And rather than set our sights on earthly accomplishments, we are advised to ‘set our affections on things above’ (Colossians 3:2). When we can say as the apostle Paul ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ we will have found the secret to a full, abundant life.
Have we lost our vision of what the true meaning of life is?
If so, how do we recover that vision?
What hinders us from experiencing abundant life?
Exodus 20:7 ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.’
Have we lost our respect and reverence for the name of the Lord our God? In our age of Facebook and other social communication media, it seems that even Christians show disrespect for God’s name and person. An obvious example is the use of the letters OMG. Many seem to feel that if they are not using God’s name as a swear word that they couldn’t be using His name in vain. Taking God’s name in vain is actually using His name in a casual or careless fashion. Every time a Christian uses God’s name it should be in a manner that reflects or shows respect for His awesomeness or holiness. Another way in which people take God’s name in vain is by the use of words such as gosh, golly or gee. All of these are euphemisms for God and are basically a means of using the name of God in a less offensive way.
Not only can we disparage the name of God by speaking disrespectfully but we can also do so by our actions. As Christians we should be always be careful that our behaviour as well as our words are worthy of the One Whose name we carry. Colossians 3:17 instructs us ‘And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.’ To swear by God’s name falsely is another way to profane His name. Even in worship we can take God’s name in vain if our hearts are not sincere, and we do not seek to worship in ‘spirit and in truth.’ And it is clear that God ‘will not hold him/her guiltless or allow them to go unpunished who are guilty of taking His name in vain.
Do we reverence God’s name as we ought to?
Are you offended when God’s name is ‘taken in vain’?
How do you think you should react when this happens?
James 2:2,3 ‘My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.’
How many of us can say that we are joyful or glad when we are faced with temptations or trials? Although this verse uses the word temptations, it can more accurately be interpreted as trials, which is borne out by the second part which mentions the ‘trying of your faith.’ While both temptations and trials both are a test of faith, they are not the same. As with any challenge to our faith, God will only allow situations which we are able to bear or overcome .(1 Corinthians 10:13) And in each challenge God is there to help if we exercise our faith. But the key difference between a trial and a temptation is where it originates and the motivation behind it. Trials may or may not come from God, but any trial that originates with God is for the purpose of accomplishing something positive in our Christian experience, or growing our faith. Which is one reason why Paul could say in Romans 12:28 that ‘all things work for good to those that love God.’
On the other hand, any temptations we may face are enticements to do wrong and are the result of our sinful nature or the works of Satan. God will never tempt us to sin or do wrong of any kind. (James 1:13) He loves us too much, and likewise hates sin too much to tempt us to commit sin. Satan’s agenda, however, is one of discouragement, defeat and destruction. As 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, he ‘walks about, seeking whom he may devour.’ But Satan is a defeated enemy who will flee when we resist him steadfastly in the faith. While trials or temptations are never enjoyable experiences in themselves, our joy comes from facing them with confident faith in the ultimate outcome, and attaining victory with the help of our all-powerful God.
Do you find it difficult to distinguish between a trial and a temptation?
How can we avoid or escape temptations?
How important is attitude in dealing with trials or temptations?
Colossians 1:18 ‘And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead: that in all things He might have the preeminence.’
The word church is usually associated with a building or a particular religion. And there is usually a designated head of each church or religion. However, the true church consists of Christians whose names are recorded in the Book of Life. This church is referred to in today’s verse as the ‘body of Christ.’ Although this body, or church has many members, with many different theologies and styles of worship, there is only one head – the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 12:2 Jesus is described as the ‘Author and Finisher of our faith’ and as such He alone is deserving to be the Head of His followers. In John 10 Jesus is the Shepherd and His church the flock, and in Revelation 21 He is the Bridegroom and His church the bride.
As a member of the triune God, Jesus alone is qualified to determine church doctrine, which is revealed to us through the Scriptures. Churches or denominations which adhere to the basic truths and principles of the Bible, and promote the essential doctrine of ‘salvation by grace through faith’ no doubt contribute greatly to building up the body of Christ. The church is founded on Christ Who ‘is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead’. This expresses Christ’s divinity and immortality, and attests to the fact that He is the first to have risen from the dead, never to taste death again. Finally, Christ must have preeminence or have first place over all of His creation, especially His body the church. Only He is worthy to rule and reign as Lord and Master over all things, including His church and every individual life.
Do you view your church as branch of the ‘body of Christ?
Do you see yourself as a member of the ‘bride of Christ
Is Christ not only Saviour but Lord of your life?
1 Corinthians 10:13 ‘No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.’
Since the first temptation in the Garden of Eden, every person has had to deal with various kinds of temptation. Adam and Eve were tempted by the ‘serpent’ to disobey God, and because of their disobedience all humanity became a ‘fallen race.’ Because we are born with a sinful nature, we are naturally inclined to yield to temptation. A common belief, outside of the Christian viewpoint, is that people are born with a tendency to do good rather than evil. However, a child never has to be taught to misbehave or do bad things – it comes naturally. And until a person is transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, there will always be some temptations that will be irresistible. Our verse today reminds us that, although our temptations may often seem unique to us, and our situations, there are none that have not been experienced by other people. Each temptation is a test or trial allowed by God for a specific purpose – to grow our faith and help us become more Christlike in our spiritual walk. And although God allows temptations to test us, He Himself will never tempt or entice us to do wrong.
As with every challenge in the Christian life, the key to victory is the faithfulness of God. In this verse God assures us that He is faithful and will not allow any temptation to come our way that, with His help, we are not able to bear. God knows the maturity of our faith and our willingness to trust Him in every situation. Not only will He limit the extent and severity of our temptations but He will also make a way of escape. 2 Peter 2:9 tells us that ‘the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation.’ We will never avoid having to face temptation while on earth, but we can rest assured that when our days on earth are over, our temptations will end as well.
What is the difference between temptations and trials?
How do temptations affect our relationship with God?
How can we lessen the numbers of temptations we have to deal with?
1 John 1:9 ‘ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
What is meant by confession of our sins and why is it necessary? Does confession simply mean acknowledgement that we have done wrong? While confession means agreement with God that one has sinned, it must also contain the elements of remorse and repentance for having done wrong. If there is no intent or commitment to turn from the sin being confessed then there is no genuine Biblical confession. David in his penitential Psalm 51:4 says to God ‘against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.’ Since all sin is missing the mark morally, or a violation of the standard that God has set, we must approach God humbly and seek His forgiveness and cleansing on a regular basis. His promise is that He will be ‘faithful and just to forgive.’
If there are sins we have committed against others, we have a duty to seek their forgiveness, as well as forgive those who have sinned against us. Mark 11:26 warns ‘if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ Regardless of the severity of our sin, if we come to God in true confession and repentance, God is obliged to forgive and cleanse us on the basis of Jesus’ shedding His blood for the ‘remission of sin.’ By confessing to One who is ‘faithful and just’ we can come with confidence to our loving heavenly Father, knowing that He not only has He forgiven us but ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.’ (Psalm 103:12) True freedom from guilt comes from confession and forgiveness of sin.
Is confession necessary for an effective prayer life?
Should we confess our sin to one another?
Does God remember our sins when He forgives us?
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